March 2015

CryingeyesSo when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him but Mary remained seated in the house.  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.  Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

And Jesus wept.

John 11:20-21, John 11:28-33, John 11:35

Who would have ever guessed Martha would be the first to greet Jesus?  

In an unexpected turn of events, Mary sat unmoved in the opening scene of Jesus’ arrival. That is until Martha returned with the message that Jesus was asking to see her.  Hearing THAT changed something.  

She didn’t just move off his direction, she ran out of the house so quickly that the Jews who were with her followed in curiosity. 

I can’t help but wonder what kept her from running to Him in the first place?

This was Mary. The one who was so enraptured by Jesus that she could not be distracted by or worried about the commotion of guests and the preparation of food. She simply sat at His feet and did the ONE thing that mattered most. And He praised her for it.

This was Mary. The one who later anointed Jesus’ head with a vile of perfume so costly that it likely represented her family’s entire fortune. She had no thought but to worship and glorify the One she loved most in this world.

She was always so wholehearted in her devotion to Him. Here we would hardly recognize her.

This was Mary.  So bound up at home in her ________ that the announcement of Jesus’ arrival didn’t move her outwardly.

She just sat there.

Certainly, in the days leading up to this, she had prayed and longed for Jesus’ arrival and been keen to know the comfort of her Savior. Yet we don’t see her move until she knew that He desired her audience. 

It was only in the moment of hearing that He was asking for HER that we sense the resurrection of her shattered heart.

And in that moment – when her heart turned back to Him – the Mary we had come to know so well returned to us. And she RAN to Jesus.  She ran so fast, that she got to Him before he’d even had time to set forth from where he had met with her sister Martha. She saw Him and fell at His feet.

Then she wept.

I know this is conjecture, but I have the distinct impression that both of Lazarus’ sisters had mixed feelings in seeing Jesus on this side of their loss. Grappling inwardly with His not being there when they needed Him most must have been excruciating. Martha and Mary’s first words to Jesus were the SAME – “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.”  

And what they said had a note of truth in it. 

I’ve been there. Haven’t you?  Disappointed with God’s choice in a matter, I’d rather avoid him until the feeling passes than face Him down with what I’m really wanting to say.

But I can’t ever let this keep me from going to Him.

Whatever it was that held Mary (and I’ll never know her thoughts this side of heaven) the undeniable truth of this passage stands as a beacon to me today in my pain and wrestling.

It wasn’t enough to know He was present. Mary needed in this moment of raw humanity to know He was still calling out to her to join Him. And if I were to gain nothing else from this account, I must not miss this –

It was the GOING to Him that healed both the breach between her and Jesus and the brokenness in Mary herself. 

She was restored through the great gift of Jesus giving her what she needed most in her despair – Himself. 

“I am the resurrection and the Life…”

As Mary’s tears wet his feet this time, Jesus was overwhelmed with the enormity of what His friends were suffering so that God’s power might be made more broadly known. It actually moved HIM to tears.

He wept. 

Is there something that holds you fast today and keeps you from running to Him even though you sense He is near?

There is nothing you or I can ever think, feel, or wrestle with that can separate us from His love. He is not fearful of what we may say now that He has shown Himself!

If you will quiet your heart and listen carefully, I suspect you will hear Him calling out for you.

Run to Him.  Do not wait.  

Jesus stands ready not only to comfort us, but to enter into our grief and to weep with us as He prepares to move in miraculous ways.

Of two things I am sure:

  • He is working at something bigger than we can see or understand for He would never have us suffer without cause.
  • He is not done yet.

I would rather meet Him on the road, to receive the gift of His presence and be present for the miracle He has come to perform, than to only hear of it later from others who had the privilege of witnessing it firsthand.

Let’s not just sit there when the time comes.

He calls every one of us by name. My prayer is that we will always have ears to hear it.

Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. – Romans 10:17

 

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Beauty_for_Ashes

“And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. THAT IS WHY I am suffering here in prison.” – Paul in  2 Timothy 1 (Emphasis mine)

Wait. What?

I thought Paul was in prison because he got in trouble for preaching the Good News, not IN ORDER TO preach the Good News!

If we read this too quickly it’s easy to miss how incredible it is that Paul actually made the connection between the ministry God had called him to and the impossibly difficult circumstances he was writing from.

Seriously.  Prison isn’t the first place anyone would expect to find themselves if God had just specifically called them to be preaching and teaching the Good News. I bet it wasn’t what Paul was expecting either.

But he embraced where He was and pursued his assignment undaunted by what must have seemed like a terrible detour.

It would be easy to think that this prison phase was just a season to be endured and then his ministry could be resumed on the other side of his release.

That’s how we think. Well, that’s how I think.

We see interruptions.  Paul saw opportunity.  

His perspective was transformed because he never lost sight of what he was called to do.  We can’t either.  He knew wherever he was, he had the awesome opportunity to talk about Jesus, and that ministry could not be put on pause just because of difficulty or trial.

What if our suffering is actually intended by God to amplify the power of our testimony?  

How many times have I thought to myself, “I’d give anything to be able to share just one moment of the tangible experience of knowing Jesus” with my friends?

When life comes crashing down around us, and the supernatural peace and joy that only Jesus can provide is seen where grief, despair and anxiety should dwell, well…

What preaching is more persuasive than that?

Paul’s suffering was made infinitely easier by the fact that he trusted his trial to be an “assignment” that God had prepared for him in advance.  The sovereignty of the Lord was never questioned by him, so his heart was able to rest in promise.

This gift is meant to be ours as well. God promises not an end to our suffering but rather the redemption of it.

As followers of Jesus, we do not suffer hardship without reason.  We do not suffer without hope.  And most importantly, we do not suffer without gain.

God uses trial to bring beauty from ashes.  Let us not forget that ashes only exist where something has been devoured and destroyed by the ferocity of fire.  It may have been something precious to us before, but here on the other side of our loss, we have a choice to make. Be swallowed up by the pain, or focus on the beauty He will bring through the sacrifice.  We can choose to remember our position in Him, having not been given a spirit of fear but of power and a sound mind, and suddenly the ashes become the mark of where He met us to turn the course of our lives again towards His glory!

Never get caught up in the question “Why me…?” before you have set real time and prayer to the question, “Why are You, God, allowing this?”

The first question has its focus on self, the second on Him.  Be assured, the answer to “why” will always come more easily through an acceptance of the plans He has for you.  They are plans to prosper you, never to harm you, to give you hope and a good future.

As a loving Father, He will not ask us to suffer anything apart from Him and His promise to bless us and others through it.  He works together in ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

Oh that I would learn  to consider it pure joy whenever I face trials of many kinds!  God is wanting to reveal something to me, and through me to others, that can only be discovered in the ashes of what has been burned up.

May I seek my answers in light of that promise.

When I “feel” as though I’ve been unexpectedly sidelined, or I lose sight of the path before me, I pray that God would help me to see the ways that I can stay in the race.  I was meant to RUN.  Even in the dark.  I don’t want to be undone with the “why” of an unexpected turn, for it has come by God’s design, and the finish line can only be found if I keep on running through.  I just need to continue to follow with focus the course the Lord has marked out for me.

As I run through these night watches. I know that these miles are all gain.  For this is where the nearness of my God can be most keenly felt.

Yeah.  THAT’S why I’m suffering.

images_night_time_running_-_Google_Search

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life.  He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time – to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.  And now he has made all this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. 

THAT IS WHY I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. 

2 Timothy 1:7-12 (Emphasis mine)

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